This first disc in Naxos' complete survey of the songs of Jean Sibelius won't do. It's not the repertoire. Although Sibelius' songs are among the least of his creations, there are still some fine and characteristic works among them and several of these are included here -- "Säv, säv, susa," "Svarta rosor," and "Sehnsucht" -- as well as five world-premiere recordings and an alternative version of "Säv, säv, susa." It's not the sound. Recorded in the Sellosali in Espoo outside Helsinki, the performers are ideally placed to convey a real sense of the experience of being in the same space and time with the musicians. It's not the piano playing. Jouni Somero knows the music, knows his way around the keyboard, and, most importantly knows how to support a singer. Sadly, however, it's the singer. Tenor Hannu Jurmu handles his mid-range capably enough, but he's too soft and indistinct in his lower register and too loud and overbearing in his upper register. Worst of all, when he has to reach for a high note, Somero more often than not undershoots it and then has to slide up into the right pitch. This goes quickly from being bothersome to being annoying, and for many listeners this recital will sooner or later become all but unlistenable. While the world premieres will be worth hearing by got-to-have-everything-the-composer-ever-wrote Sibelius aficionados, casual Sibelius fans will be more than satisfied by either of Anne Sofie von Otter's two recordings on BIS and dedicated Sibelius fans will only be satisfied with the classic set of the complete songs (sans these world premieres, of course) by Tom Krause and Elisabeth Söderström on Decca.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
The Maid Returned from Meeeting her Lover (Flickan kon ifrån sin älsklings möte), song for voice & piano, Op. 37/5
|Songs (6) for voice & piano, Op. 88|